Hailed as one of the biggest next-gen stars of Indian cricket – Shubman Gill has garnered praise from all quarters of the cricketing fraternity for his sensational talent and nonchalant approach while handling the best of the bowlers in the business. Gill’s consistent performances for India A and in the domestic circuit earned him a lot of comparisons with the current Indian skipper Virat Kohli. But in all modesty, Gill credited all of his success and cricketing acumen to none other than ‘The Wall of Indian Cricket’ – Rahul Dravid, who has asked the youngster to stick to his natural game come what may.

Many former and present greats including ex-India skipper Sourav Ganguly was left surprised by his omission from the senior team’s ongoing tour of the West Indies. Just two weeks shy of his 20th birthday, Gill finished the one-day series between India A and West Indies A as the top run-getter with 218 runs in four matches. His average of 54.50 with a strike rate of 98.19 set him apart from the rest of his contemporaries. He smashed three half-centuries and was named the Man of the Series.

In an interaction with PTI, the 19-year-old batsman spoke about handling the limelight, the comparisons, “that cover drive” where he looks like Kohli and pro-tips from the likes of Dravid and Yuvraj Singh in dealing with the hype surrounding him. “Rahul sir has been my coach since the India U-19 days and then India A. There is one basic advice from him which I always keep in mind. He would tell me that come what may, never change the basic game that got you success,” said Gill, who became the youngest Indian to score a first-class double hundred earlier this month.

“I would certainly rate my double hundred against the West Indies A as one of my best knocks in red-ball (cricket) considering the opposition, surface and match situation,” Gill said.

Gill also top-scored for India A in the unofficial one-day series against the same opposition, accumulating 218 runs, including three half-centuries.
But what happens if the natural game doesn’t deliver the desired results sometimes?

“He (Dravid) said that if we want to get technically more solid, all the adjustments that we make should be within the confines of our basic game,” elaborated the right-hander, who won the BCCI’s Best Junior Cricketer award for consecutive years in 2013-14 and 2014-15.

“Rahul sir told me that if I change my game, it won’t be natural anymore and may not provide success. His focus has always been on the mental make-up while we face the challenge posed by the best,” the Punjab lad said.

The front-foot cover drives off spinners by Gill seem like a carbon copy of a Kohli stroke — minimal backlift and lot of wrists involved.

The affable youngster said the stroke “came naturally to him”. “…because I have an attacking game against the spinners. Since childhood, I have practised a lot against spin bowling. So while playing on turners, I developed this particular stroke,” said Gill.

His net practice involves a lot of match-simulation both in red and white ball situations. “While I love stepping out to spinners as that’s my game, I have a back and across trigger when I am facing the quick bowlers. With the South Africa A series coming up, I am focusing a lot on leaving deliveries,” he revealed.

Reflecting on the recent A tour of the West Indies, Gill said the thought of saving matches hardly ever crosses his mind as he likes to focus on putting the team in a winning position. “Actually, even when we lost quick wickets, it didn’t strike me or my partner (Hanuma Vihari) that we need to save the match. All we were thinking was how to change the course,” said the player, who enjoys a staggering average of 78-plus and 1339 runs in just 12 first-class games.

“During that innings (his double hundred), the first plan was to see off the remaining part of the third day. The next day, the pitch had some juice, so the first session was important. The next plan was to score 120 off the next 30 overs as their bowlers would be getting a little tired,” he added.

His feet rooted firmly to the ground despite all the accolades coming his way, Gill said he is never bothered about what’s being said about him when he takes the field to bat. “It’s only when you are off the field that you come to know about what’s being said about you. Once you enter the field, these things fade out. You only think about opposition and ways to win matches,” he said.

Unimaginable money (he was picked for Rs 1.8 crore by Kolkata Knight Riders in the last IPL auctions), instant stardom, an Indian cricketer’s life is always on the fast lane.

Gill understands the pressures of it and who better than Yuvraj Singh to give some sound advice on how to deal with stardom. “Yuvi paaji gives me a lot of advice about handling pressure, fame and adulation. In the Punjab team, I confide a lot in my senior Gurkeerat Singh Mann. And obviously, any for life decision, I always look up to my dad,” he concluded.